Monday, August 22, 2016

Review: (un)Natural Mom

(un)Natural Mom:  Why You Are the Perfect Mom for Your Kids
By Hettie Brittz
David C. Cook, 2016


Do you feel like you're the only mom who serves store-bought birthday treats, dreads school plays, and misses the days of going to the bathroom by herself?

Unnatural Mom gives you permission to say that mothering doesn't always come naturally to you. Parenting expert and self-proclaimed unnatural mom Hettie Brittz helps you . . .

-Recognize how unrealistic our culture's standards of mothering are
-Move beyond the myths of "supermom"
-Complete a profile to determine your own parenting style
-Understand and forgive the mothers who hurt you
-Embrace your capabilities as well as your challenges

Come find new hope in discovering that every mother has unique gifts. In Christ, the "unnatural" mom becomes the supernatural mom who is just right for her family!

Purchase a copy:

My thoughts

An (un)Natural Mom is any mom who finds
some everyday aspect of motherhood so challenging that
she experiences shame, fear, or even despair.

(un)Natural Mom by Hettie Britzz is a gem that has the potential to be a wonderfully helpful – even life changing – resource for any mom who takes the time to read it. In fact, the greatest compliment I can bestow is to say that I wish Hettie had written it 38 years ago. I wanted to review this book because there are several young mothers in my church, and (un)Natural Mom is a book that I will recommend every chance I get – and even plan to give it as baby gifts occasionally.

My son was the first baby I had ever held – talk about inexperience and not knowing what to expect! In chapter 2, “The Counterfeit Call to Be “Natural,” Hettie shares seven myths drawn from personal experience – man-made rules heaped upon mothers by society. I’m glad to say that I didn’t fall for all seven, but that’s all I’m admitting to.

Hettie writes with intelligence, honesty, humor and passion, and there’s not one boring moment. I especially like how she can laugh at herself. If we are totally honest, I suspect many moms reading this can relate to Hettie’s question after the birth of her daughter: “Why did I love her to the point of being willing to die for her, while finding the daily baby-care chores unfulfilling?”

Of great benefit is a free online tool called Tall Trees Parenting Profile (T2P2), which helps us determine our parenting temperament and then embrace God’s design for us as individual moms. This is a great concept and let me again say how much I wish this had been available years ago! Four chapters in the book parallel this profile, and moms are just like these trees – “100 percent natural and yet diverse in our beauty.” Rather than describing each type, Hettie makes it much more interesting by fictionally focusing on one specific mom, recognizing her struggles, and offering grace.

One thought that especially spoke to me is … don’t force yourself or let the expectations of others force you into a “natural” style that isn’t you, for the Master Designer made you to fit the design of your children. “Only the One who calls us by name has the right to tell us how we should be. The beauty is that He does not tell us without enabling us as well. He doesn’t demand what we don’t have. And we always have enough by virtue of His free gifts.”

And with God in the equation, (un)Natural becomes (super)Natural. As a mom who has raised her children and enjoys the godly adults they have become, I cherish this quote . . .

A (super)Natural Mom knows that her failures won’t
stop God from keeping all the promises He made
concerning her life and the lives of her children.

Hettie wrote about something else that touched me in a special way and I can’t end this review without mentioning it, as adoption may play a role in one or both of my children’s future . . .

The mom who chooses the adoption route, whether she can or cannot conceive a baby, experiences a pregnancy of its own kind. The approval by the adoption agency may be her “double pink stripe.” Her pregnancy can last for years. She also has a readied room, a baby bag by the door, and a supply of formula. Her waters break when the adoption agency finally calls with good news. This unnatural pregnancy is supernatural in my book.

Highly recommended.


Hettie Brittz is an author, international speaker, and one of South Africa's foremost voices on parenting advice. She is the developer of the Evergreen Parenting Course and Tall Trees Profiles. Hettie and her husband, Gospel singer Louis Brittz, live in South Africa with their three children.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Litfuse landing page:

Spotlight (+ Ebook GIVEAWAY): The Beauty Series, Books 1 &2

The Beauty Series
By Carol E. Keen

Beauty for Ashes

Jazz is being forced to move and her mom has given her a major task to accomplish. She has to pack up the attic. What Jazz finds in the attic changes her life in ways she never imagined, and opens her up to life altering possibilities.

Monstrous Beauty

Ethan’s father was a piece of work, to put it mildly. His father managed to become quite wealthy before he died, yet he left Ethan deeply damaged in more ways than one. Can the love and care of a strange young woman with a past of her own free him, or is he doomed to never change?

Purchase your copy here.


Carol E. Keen currently resides in Alabama with her husband and family. She spends her time writing, reading, working on photography, and working with her much loved critters. She started creating stories to share with others at the age of two years old. She was published for several years in FAMA magazine (Freshwater and Marine Aquarium) as a contributing editor. She published her first book on CD, called Simply Seahorses. She is overjoyed to be publishing her fiction to share with you now. Carol currently has more books in the “works.” Please feel free to follow her for updates.

On a personal note: Carol really enjoys coffee and a good book.


Guest Post from Carol E. Keen

Can you believe it? I’m on my second tour with Celebrate Lit! Wow! I’m floored and happy and close to tears too. I have to say a HUGE thank you to Sandy and Denise for their encouragement and patience and help.

Today we are talking about my first series, The Beauty Series. The first book, Beauty For Ashes is the very first published fiction book that I have released. It started out as a contest entry. When it didn’t make the winning selection, I expanded it and had several trusted people read it. It was well received over all, and so I braved the scary world of navigation Amazon and published it.

Beauty For Ashes is based on Cinderella, and it was a challenge to write. I had always had some questions about why certain things weren’t covered in that story, so in my version, I added them. I answered my unanswered questions. I also have always felt that Cinderella had to be Christian to survive what she did and still be who she was.

My third published book is the second book in this series, and one of my favorite fairytales of all time. Monstrous Beauty is based on Beauty and the Beast. As with Beauty For Ashes, I always felt a “back story” to what drove the Beast was missing. In this version I have added all that, as well as having other answers to why “Beauty” was in this situation to start with. How would either of them relied on God to get through their situations?

I had a lot of fun writing Monstrous Beauty, and I’m looking forward to the next book I plan to write in this series.

Thank you so much for joining me on this adventure, and please feel free to ask questions!

Blessings, Carol



To celebrate her tour, Carol is giving away three ebook copies of the Beauty Series with bookmark. Enter the giveaway below:

Blog Stops

August 14: Back Porch Reads
August 15: Pause for Tales
August 17: A Greater Yes
August 17: inklings and notions
August 18: Karen’s Krayons
August 20: simpleharvestreads
August 22: The Power of Words
August 24: ArtisticNobody

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Carrie Stuart Parks’ ‘When Death Draws Near’ Undercover Artist Starter Set

Plunge into forensic artist Gwen Marcey's world, full of cold-case murders, shady politics, and a den of venomous suspects. Add Carrie Stuart Parks' new Gwen Marcey novel, When Death Draws Near, to the top of your must-read list. Gwen accepts temporary work in Pikeville, Kentucky—a small town facing big-city crime. But before she can finish her first drawing of the serial rapist who is on the loose, the latest witness vanishes. Just like all the others. Can Gwen uncover the truth—and convince anyone to believe her—before she becomes a victim herself?

Join Carrie in celebrating the release of When Death Draws Near by entering to win an Undercover Artist Starter Set.

when death draws near - 400 

One grand prize winner will receive:

when death draws near - collage 

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on August 22. The winner will be announced August 23 on the Litfuse blog.

when death draws near - enterbanner

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Review (+ Ebook Giveaway): Die, Die Birdie

Die, Die Birdie
By J. R. Ripley
A Bird Lover’s Mystery #1
Kensington, 2016


For Amy Simms, hatching a birding shop in her hometown of Ruby Lake, North Carolina, hasn’t exactly been a breeze. But could a deadly discovery clip her wings for good?

It’s just days before Amy plans to open Birds & Bees on the first floor of her creaky Victorian house, but delayed seed shipments have prevented the fledging owner from stocking her shelves. And it doesn’t help that Amy’s best friend and business partner is out of town indefinitely. With locals skeptical about the niche shop taking flight, the last thing Amy needs now is a dead man in her storeroom-or for a crotchety tenant to catch her holding a bloody birdfeeder hook over his body . . .

Pigeonholed as a leading murder suspect by police and lacking a solid alibi, Amy’s delving into the victim’s ugly past and buzzing around Ruby Lake for clues on his killer . . . before she ends up like so many of her beloved feathery friends-trapped behind bars!

My thoughts

Die, Die Birdie begins a new series by J. R. Ripley that many cozy mystery fans will enjoy. The town setting of Ruby Lake, North Carolina is appealing – and populated with lots of interesting, quirky people. The lead character, Amy, is opening a small shop that specializes in all things related to birds – she even mixes her own birdseed – and it’s housed on the first floor of a Victorian house.

The narrative is first person, as seen from store owner Amy’s point of view, which worked well. Finding herself suspected of murder, she sets out to investigate the deceased’s ugly past. The mystery was well plotted, easy to follow, and I was surprised at the outcome, as is usually the case. I also liked how some secondary storylines added depth to the story.

I love it when a character who initially rubs me the wrong way gradually becomes quite likeable, and that was the case with Amy’s nosy tenant, Esther “Pester.” I also enjoyed the focus on birds and nature. Having a hummingbird feeder is just about all I know about birds, but they are a beautiful part of God’s creation and I appreciated all the interesting tidbits of information that Amy shared. Another interesting character is Aaron, a talented and creative builder of birdhouses.

Although I didn’t find this first story totally engaging for some reason, I did enjoy several aspects of it and think the series will only get better. For cozy mystery fans, Die, Die Birdie is well worth a look.


J.R. Ripley is the pen name of Glenn Meganck, the critically acclaimed author of the Tony Kozol mystery series. As a member of the Mystery Writers of America, he has chaired the Edgar committee for Best Original Paperback novel and served on the Best Short Story Committee. As a member of the International Association of Crime Writers, he has served on the Hammett Award committee for Best Novel.

When not writing books, Glenn is writing songs, often singing them to the consternation of his audience and neighbors, or involved in one of his many passions, none of which have involved any of the dead bodies that seem to keep cropping up in his mysteries.

Thank you to Great Escape Tours for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.



To enter the drawing for one of two e-copies of Die, Die Birdie, click on the picture or link below.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Spotlight (+ Giveaway): Tackling the Fields

Today I have the honor of spotlighting Tackling the Fields by Janet W. Ferguson. From reading Janet’s guest post, this sounds like a story I would enjoy and hope to read it soon.

Tackling the Fields
By Janet W. Ferguson
Southern Hearts Series #3


Cole Sanders is a changed man. The university quarterback questions his direction in life after serving on a mission trip in Honduras. Things that used to fill Cole’s ego seem empty after witnessing the developing country’s extreme poverty and the death of a precious child. The one glimmer of hope through his confusion is the fresh perspective he now has about his tutor, Audrey. She possesses something beautiful inside and out—something that might help him become the person he wants to be.

University senior Audrey Vaughn tutored Cole Sanders for an entire year and never imagined the popular quarterback would see her as anything more than a friend. After partnering with him on the mission trip, they are drawn together. And he appears to have changed for the better. To let Cole into her life, Audrey will have to overcome not only her brother’s distrust, but also the paralyzing fear still lingering from a past she’s tried to leave behind.

Cole can’t walk away from Audrey now that they’re back in Oxford. He’ll have to figure out how to keep her giant of a brother, a lineman on his football team, from killing him when the coach has his back turned. But can Audrey trust her heart to a player so similar to the one who stole so much from her in the past?

Purchase at:


Guest Post from Janet Ferguson

Hi, I’m Janet W. Ferguson, and I’m so excited to be back again and meet more readers through Celebrate Lit!

This is a story I didn’t want to write, but felt called to tackle. The loss of the dream, the loss of innocence, and life’s other unfair struggles can challenge our faith—can make us captive to fear and disappointment.

In the South, we love football. In writing this book, I’m not trying to make a statement for or against the sport. My husband and son loved playing the game. After my son suffered a torn ACL, torn shoulder labrum, and four surgeries, he could no longer participate in the game he loved. He mourned the loss of the brotherhood of his team. I saw the popular pastime differently from his eyes. For young men, I believe it is a bond between friends for a common goal. Though the character in this book is totally fictional, I’m dedicating this book to my son, Luke.

The other sensitive topics in this story seemed particularly sad, but relevant in our society. Trust me, I didn’t prefer to research acquaintance/date rape or human trafficking, but both are going on all too often in communities both small and large. There are a number of organizations set up to help victims of these crimes if you feel a calling to help.

Someone reading this may have had something terrible that happened in their past or may know someone who has. God is able to set free the captives, set you free from the bonds that hold you. My prayer is that you find comfort in that truth.


Janet W. Ferguson grew up in Mississippi and received a degree in Banking and Finance from the University of Mississippi. She has served her church as a children’s minister and a youth volunteer. An avid reader, she worked as a librarian at a large public high school. Janet and her husband have two grown children, one really smart dog, and a few cats that allow them to share the space.



To celebrate her tour, Janet is giving away a $75 Amazon gift card and a copy of Tackling the Fields.

Blog Stops

August 15: Quiet Quilter
August 17: Blogging With Carol
August 18: The Power of Words (Spotlight)
August 21: Karen’s Krayons
August 22: Bigreadersite
August 23: A Greater Yes
August 25: A Reader’s Brain
August 26: Mary Hake

Monday, August 15, 2016

Getting to Know Amy Clipston + 2-book GIVEAWAY

It is an honor to come alongside other Bakery Bunch team members in support of Amy Clipston – and also downright fun! We’ve put together a “Getting to Know Amy” tour this month and all the tour stops are listed at the end of this post.

Amy has also graciously offered a double giveaway that includes her latest release, The Courtship Basket, and also the upcoming collection, An Amish Harvest – plus swag!!

Amy and I hope that you enjoy this interview and maybe learn some things you didn’t already know about her.

Q:  A few of Amy’s favorites . . .

Favorite way to relax or unwind . . . Watch movies with my family
A recent movie that I loved . . . “Captain America: Civil War” (We’re huge Avengers fans at my house!)
Favorite family vacation . . . Walt Disney World
A great book that I read recently . . . The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Favorite snack . . . Popcorn and Diet Coke
Favorite hymn . . . “Beautiful Savior”
Favorite holiday . . . Halloween

Q:  You and I have a love for cats in common, Amy. Please share an incident or something about one of your kitties that has touched you.

I have four cats, and my most outgoing is Lily, our little tabby. She’s approximately 7 years old, and she “talks.” You can have a conversation with her because she will answer your questions and comments with a very loud “meow.” Lily loves to sit in my son Matthew’s window while he plays video games. The other day, my husband walked outside and found Lily asleep on her back in the window. It’s rare for Lily to be quiet, and the sight was so funny that he took a photo and texted to me. Here’s the photo. Lily is a hoot!  The house would be too quiet without her!

Q:  I enjoyed your latest book, The Courtship Basket, book #2 in the Amish Heirloom series. Please tell us a little about this story and why it is so personal for you.

The Courtship Basket is a book that’s very close to my heart. The story touches the topic of kidney disease, and my husband, Joe, has had two kidney transplants. Joe received his second transplant through a swap, where I donated to someone and Joe received a kidney in exchange. In The Courtship Basket, Raymond Lantz suffers with kidney disease and is on dialysis. This is the first time I used kidney disease in one of my books, and I hope the book helps to bring the topic to the forefront.

I dedicated this book to Nyeisha and Eric, who were part of our kidney donation swap. Both Joe and Nyeisha struggled with kidney disease similar to how Raymond Lantz does in the story.

Q:  What stories can we look forward to in the months ahead?

My next release is a novella called “Love and Buggy Rides,” which is part of An Amish Harvest, a new anthology featuring four Amish novellas set in the fall. My story features Janie Lantz, who is a character in The Courtship Basket. I had fun telling her story, and I hope readers enjoy learning more about Janie. This book release Aug. 16.

My next Amish Heirloom book, The Cherished Quilt, will release on Nov. 29, and readers will get to read Emily Fisher’s story.  Book #4, The Beloved Hope Chest, will follow in May 2017, and readers will find out how Mattie and Leroy Fisher met and came to marry.

Q:  How can we pray for you, Amy?

I’m currently researching and plotting a new series. I can’t share too much at this time, but this series will take place in Bird-in-Hand, PA. I would appreciate prayers of inspiration and confidence as I begin working on book #1. I always worry my next book won’t be as good as the last.

Thank you for having me on your blog!

* * *

Amy, it has been an honor to host you and I hope you’ll come back soon. And because of the love for cats that we share, I couldn’t resist sharing this drawing . . .



To enter the drawing, please click on this link and share my Facebook post, then leave a comment here. If you’ve read Amy’s books before, do you have a favorite story or series?

BE SURE to leave your name and your email address in a safe format - [at] and [dot] - for the drawing. E-mail required for entry. Contest ends at midnight PST on Tuesday, August 23. Winner will be chosen by and contacted by e-mail.

Eligibility: US residents


“Getting to Know Amy” Tour Stops . . .

8/6 Lane Hill House
8/8 Eat, Read, Teach, Blog
8/12 A Baker's Perspective
8/14 Cheryl's Book Blog
8/15 The Power of Words
8/18 Ida's Books
8/19 Stamping, Books, and Amish Country Ramblings
Later in August - Buy, Borrow, Skip